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The Observer Paper 12/22/14

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Everyone should have access to quality health care at a reasonable cost. The fact is, good health care costs money, and many people throughout our country fall between the cracks and cannot afford insurance or don't qualify for government assistance. Oregon has tried to remedy the situation with the Oregon Health Plan, but the state is finding that paying the bill for the plan exceeds resources.

SO ALONG COMES an initiative that would set up universal health coverage in Oregon. Proponents say Measure 23 would fill the gaps the health plan and insurance have created and ensure coverage for all. But the cost is more than Oregon can bear. It should be rejected by voters.

The plan would replace Medicare, Medicaid and the medical coverage portion of workers' compensation and automobile insurance. The measure would rely on a new payroll tax on employers with a minimum rate of 3 percent and a maximum rate of 11.5 percent. A governing board would establish individual income tax rates that would not exceed 3.9 percent of total statewide personal gross income and 8 percent of an individual's taxable income. The maximum rate anyone would pay would be $25,000. Those with incomes equal to or less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level would be exempt from the tax.

HOW IN THE WORLD could Oregonians afford such a plan? The state's current tax structure isn't sufficient to support schools, public safety and other current services. The extra burden of a new payroll tax, even taking into account the savings that would be afforded by not having to pay insurance, would cripple Oregon workers and business.

Measure 23 needs to be defeated. As the Oregon State Firefighters Council says, the measure "aims at the right problem but offers the wrong solution.'' Vote no.


Measure 27, the proposed Oregon food labeling law, has drawn the wrath — and opened the checkbooks — of some of the world's biggest corporations. Opponents of the measure are spending about $6 million to ensure that Oregon doesn't become the first state in the nation to require, as about 30 countries do, that food containing genetically modified ingredients be so labeled. That alone should raise some red flags with voters.

THE OPPOSITION IS telling Oregonians that the costs associated with labeling every food item for genetically modified ingredients would be prohibitive for the state and for consumers. They don't tell us they are already labeling foods that go to countries with similar laws. Adding labels to food destined for Oregon shouldn't be much of a problem.

However, the measure is far more vague than what the European Union or Japan have in place. Defining and administering the law would be a challenge in the 90-day time frame provided for in the measure.

Letting people know what's in their food makes sense. But the labeling law appears to need some fine-tuning. It's neither as simple as proponents claim nor as dangerous as the opposition thinks.

The measure as written should be defeated.


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